press release

Bridget Riley
October 23, 2019–January 26, 2020

Hayward Gallery presents a major retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of celebrated British artist Bridget Riley. Spanning 70 years of the artist’s working life, it is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of her work to date.

Bridget Riley is one of the most distinguished and internationally renowned artists working today. Her pioneering approach to painting involves the skilful balancing of form and colour, yielding a continuous but highly varied enquiry into the nature of abstraction and perception. Riley’s rigorous and visually-charged works actively engage the viewer, bringing attention to the act of looking at paintings and perceiving the world around us.

This exhibition traces both the origins and the evolving nature of Riley’s innovative practice. Chronicling early works to recent paintings, it features the artist’s iconic black-and-white works of the 1960s (Kiss, 1961, Movement in Squares, 1961 and Blaze 1, 1962) and an extensive range of colour canvases (among them Rise 1, 1968, High Sky, 1991 and Aria, 2012), as well as rarely-seen figurative works and studies. Including over 200 works and 50 key paintings, the exhibition is organised thematically rather than chronologically, and draws attention to the interests and themes that recur throughout Riley’s formidable body of work. The exhibition also features four key wall paintings (Composition with Circles 4, 2004, Rajasthan, 2012, Quiver 3, 2014 and Untitled (Measure for Measure Wall Painting), 2017), several large canvases that have seldom been seen in this country (Exposure, 1966, Paean, 1973 and Aubade, 1975) and the only three-dimensional work that the artist ever realised, Continuum (1963/2005). A selection of drawings, studies and preparatory works offer insight into Riley’s working methods, from 1947 to the present day.

This retrospective builds on the long-standing relationship between the artist and Hayward Gallery. It is Riley’s third solo show at Hayward, having previously presented solo shows here in 1971 and 1992. Following the award of the International Prize for Painting at the 34th Venice Biennale in 1968, her ground-breaking 1971 exhibition Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71 was both the first UK survey of her work and the first large-scale exhibition at Hayward Gallery devoted to a contemporary British painter. She continued to show at Hayward from the 1970s onwards, with several touring solo exhibitions arranged by the Arts Council, and in 2002 acted as co-curator, with Robert Kudielka, for Paul Klee: The Nature of Creation.

Bridget Riley is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring critical writing, statements and conversations selected by the artist that reflect on different aspects of her 70-year career. Contributors include the artist herself, Michael Bracewell, John Elderfield, Dave Hickey, Robert Kudielka, Frances Spalding and Richard Shiff.

The exhibition’s public programme includes a talk by US-based curator Lynne Cooke; a panel discussion on abstraction in contemporary art featuring artists Sara Barker, Rana Begum and Isabelle Cornaro; and a half-day symposium on Riley’s innovative practice. London Sinfonietta will give the London premiere of a new commission by leading Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas, inspired by Riley’s work, while a number of other concerts take place in the exhibition itself. These include performances of Steve Reich’s minimalist masterpiece Drumming, and music by award-winning young guitarist Sean Shibe.

The exhibition is organised by the National Galleries of Scotland in partnership with Hayward Gallery. At Hayward Gallery, it has been curated by Senior Curator Dr Cliff Lauson, with Assistant Curator Sophie Oxenbridge and Curatorial Assistant Alyssa Bacon.